Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The "Mutograph" and "Mutoscope" -- September 23, 2014

"The 'Mutograph' and 'Mutoscope'" from Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, edited by Albert Allis Hopkins.

The "mutograph" and "mutoscope" are names of very interesting machines for presenting moving photographs. The camera frame is mounted, by means of three adjustable legs, upon a triangular turntable, which may be placed upon any suitable support. Upon the top of the frame is bolted a two horse-power electric motor which is driven by a set of storage batteries; the combination of the turntable with a vertical adjustable enables the camera to be shifted so as to take in the required field. In the front of the camera is fixed a lens of great light-gathering quality which produces an image of exceedingly clear detail. Inside the camera is a strip of gelatine film two and three-quarter inches wide, and usually about one hundred and sixty feet in length, which is wound upon a small pulley and drum. The length of the film varies for different subjects. In case of a prolonged scene it may extend several thousand feet. The film is led through a series of rollers, and is caused to pass directly behind the lens of the camera, and is finally wound upon a drum. The object of the rollers is to cause the film to pass behind the lens with an intermittent instead of a continuous motion. At ordinary speeds this could be easily accomplished, but the difficulties are increased when it is remembered that the impressions are taken at the rate of forty per second, and that the film, which is running at the rate of seven or eight feet a second, has to be stopped and started with equal frequency. The film comes to a rest just as the shutter opens, and starts again as the shutter closes. The impressions vary in actual exposure between one one-hundredth and one four-hundredth of a second. While the ordinary speed is forty a second, the mutoscope can take equally good pictures at the rate of one hundred per second, if it is necessary. The highest speed would be used in photographing the flight of a projectile or other object which was in extremely rapid motion. After the mutograph has done its work, the films are carefully packed and sent to the New York establishment of the American Mutoscope Company. Here they are taken to the dark room, the interior of which is shown in our engraving. Arranged along each side of this room is a series of troughs, above which are suspended large skeleton reels three feet in diameter and seven feet long, the axes of the reels being journaled in brackets attached to the end of the trough. The films are wound upon the reels and subjected to the action of the various solutions for developing, fixing, etc., the reels being transferred from bath to bath until the films are ready to go to the drying-room. In this room are also prepared positive transparent strips for use in the biograph and the bromide prints for the mutoscope.

The films are unwound on to large wooden drums about the same size as the reels, where they are carefully dried. At the far end of the room are seen the machines for cutting up the bromide prints. Here also is carried on the work of retouching the films and preparing them for use in the biograph and mutoscope pictures. The biograph is somewhat similar to machines which we have aready described.

The annexed engravings show pictures of clay-pigeon shooting and of the firing of a ten-inch disappearing gun at Sandy Hook.

Upon the roof of the New York establishment of the company there has been erected a large movable stage for taking photographs of celebrated scenes from plays or of individual performances in which it is desired to reproduce the motions as well as the features of the subject. It consists of a floor of steel I-beams which carries a series of three concentric steel traps. Upon this rotates the massive frame at one end of which is a stage supplied with the necessary scenery, and at the other end a corrugated iron house, in which is located the mutograph. The stage is bolted to the frame, but the house travels upon a track, so that it may be moved to or from the stage as required. The frame carrying the stage and house rotates about the smaller circular track located beneath the house, and may be swung around so as to throw the light full upon the scene at any hour of the day.

The "mutoscope" is compact, and the picture are large. It is not any larger than the cover of a sewing machine. The enlarged bromide prints, measuring four by six inches, are mounted in close consecutive order around the cylinder and extend out like the leaves of a book, as shown in the illustration. In the operation of the mutoscope the spectator has the performance entirely under his own control by turning a crank which is placed conveniently at hand, and may make the operation as quick or as slow as he desires, and can stop the machine at any particular picture at will.  Each picture is momentarily held in front of the lens by the action of a slot attached to the roof of the box, which allows the pictures to slip by in much the same way as the thumb is used upon the leaves of a book.

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